The Case for Life
- Saturday, May 09, 2009
Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.
Degree of dependency: If viability makes us valuable human beings, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable, and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.
In short, pro-life advocates contend that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature.
IS KILLING ALWAYS WRONG?
Let me clarify two points. First, the pro-life view is not that it’s always wrong to take human life, a position only a strict pacifist would hold. Our view is that it’s always wrong to take human life without proper justification, and we believe (for reasons we’ll discuss in this book) that elective abortion does just that.
Francis J. Beckwith outlines a basic pro-life syllogism as follows:
1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.9
By “full-fledged member of the human community” (premise #1), Beckwith means that the unborn are the same kind of being as you and I and thus have the same basic rights we do. True, they differ from us in terms of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, but these differences are not morally relevant to their status as human beings. Thus, depriving them of life requires the same strict justification needed for killing a ten-year-old or any other human being. Note again that he is not arguing we can never take human life, only that it’s prima facie wrong to do so, meaning that under normal circumstances we are not justified in killing another human being. That last point is a key distinction, one often missed by some abortion-choice advocates who insist that pro-lifers are inconsistent for opposing elective abortion but not opposing the death penalty, the killing of animals, or war. In this case, the abortion-choice advocate is attacking a straw man. As stated above, most pro-lifers do not say it’s always wrong to take life, but that it’s always wrong to take human life without justification.
We believe elective abortion takes human life without justification, and thus we oppose it.
Second, by elective abortion I mean those abortions not medically necessary to save the mother’s physical life. As reported in the journal International Family Planning Perspectives, the vast majority of abortions worldwide are not done for medical necessity but to delay giving birth:
[T]he most commonly reported reason women cite for having an abortion is to postpone or stop childbearing. The second most common reason—socioeconomic concerns—includes disruption of education or employment; lack of support from the father; desire to provide schooling for existing children; and poverty, unemployment or inability to afford additional children. In addition, relationship problems with a husband or partner and a woman’s perception that she is too young constitute other important categories of reasons. Women’s characteristics are associated with their reasons for having an abortion: With few exceptions, older women and married women are the most likely to identify limiting childbearing as their main reason for abortion.10
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